Home Sciences World Bird Day: half of the species in Spain are threatened

World Bird Day: half of the species in Spain are threatened

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Half of the birds in Spain are threatened and are at risk of disappearing if no action is taken to reverse the damage caused by the pressure of human activity. Pollution, the destruction of habitats, intensive agricultural activity and climate change are leading the rich Spanish avifauna to progressively regress and it is a problem that, far from being reversed, has continued to grow in the last 20 years.

Spain is the second richest country in Europe in birdlife. 622 species inhabit or move through our country each year, of which 572 are native, which denotes the “important custodian responsibility” it has to protect all this biodiversity. However, when World Migratory Bird Day is celebrated, the reality is very different, since in the last two decades, conservation efforts have been insufficient to reverse the impact of economic and industrial activities.

This is highlighted by the Red Book of Birds of Spain 2021, which highlights that most of the species that most frequent our country -56%- either have problems developing their lives in environments that have become hostile or, directly, have become extinct.

The situation has also worsened compared to the prevailing scenario 18 years ago – the last published Red Book dates back to 2004 -. Of all the species evaluated then, only 24 have lowered their level of threat, and therefore, are in a better position than then. This is the case of the bearded vulture, the Bonelli’s eagle, the black vulture, the osprey, the Egyptian vulture or the black kite.

17% more threatened species compared to 18 years ago

On the contrary, most of the species that were threatened then remain the same or have worsened. Specifically, 33 species worsen their situation and another 60 maintain the same category. This means that the threatened avifauna in Spain has grown by 17% compared to 18 years ago.

On this occasion, the Red Book has expanded the number of birds under study. It included 359 species of birds (in 2004 there were 175). This expansion of the study has made it possible to evaluate 57% of the species that make up the Spanish avifauna (622), and 62.8% of the native or naturally occurring birds in the country (572). Of the species studied, it was found that 90 (25.1%) presented threat categories (critical, endangered or vulnerable), 12 (3.3%) species or populations could be included in extinction categories and 51 (14.2% ) species present a situation close to threat.

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The percentages vary depending on the bird’s way of life. Only 42% of the reproductive species -that is, those that remain in the same place throughout their lives- have optimal living conditions in our country; a figure that increases to 56% when it comes to animals that migrate or hibernate.

Seabirds and wetland birds, the most threatened

The species that are in the worst situation are those found in wetlands and marine environments (such as coastal areas), among which nine have been identified as critically endangered. The endangered species are mainly birds from semi-natural habitats, such as agrosystems or dehesas, in which 19 species have been identified.

In general terms, pollution is the most common threat to birds, affecting 76.29% of the species studied. There are several types of pollution that affect them. For example, insecticides and pesticides used in intensive agricultural practices reduce the presence of insects and, when consumed, reduce the reproductive potential of birds.

The contamination of soil and wetlands by lead used in hunting, microplastics, hydrocarbons and light pollution, on the other hand, is what most affects seabirds. This impact affects the spoonbill, the Bulwer’s petrel, the gray shrike, the Balearic shearwater, the Canary Cory’s shearwater, the brown pochard and the European pochard.

The alteration of ecosystems it affects 70% of the Spanish avifauna and is the second reason for the threat to these animals. This type of contamination is especially pronounced in the case of birds linked to wetlands, highly affected by the drying and drainage of these areas, the destruction of riparian forests or the overexploitation of aquifers. These practices threaten the survival of black storks, pochards, Moorish coots, marbled teals, aquatic warblers, reed buntings, bitterns, and darting warblers.

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The intensive farming practices, like monocultures, affect the habitats of many birds by fragmenting and transforming their habitats. The Montagu’s Harrier and the Montagu’s Harrier, the Egyptian Vulture, the Lesser Kestrel, the Ortega and Iberian Sandgrouse, the Little Bustard or the Median-billed Harrier are among the most impacted taxa.

For the first time added impacts derived from climate change, which according to the report are the fourth cause of disappearance of specimens, affecting 65% of the species. The report warns that the increased frequency of extreme weather events can have severe impacts, including high adult and chick mortality, especially in late spring and early summer. Red Partridge, Bobwhite Quail, Gray Partridge, Red Kite, Bourbon Teal and Western Jackdaw are some of the birds already feeling the effects of global warming.

To reverse this situation, from Seo/Birdlife They propose to act in three types of measures: conservation, dissemination and research. To ensure that birds can survive in their natural environment, it is urged to regulate the use of pesticides, modify the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), prohibit the authorization of projects that affect breeding or feeding areas of threatened species, control and eradication of invasive species and the cessation of hunting of species whose populations are in decline.

All of this must be supported by research on the populations and the causes of decline, monitoring programs and studies on the breeding and wintering areas of endangered species. On the other hand, specialists see the need to complete the Natura 2000 Network, given that “a good part of the populations of threatened birds are found outside the network.”

More information at: https://seo.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/Resumen-Libro-Rojo-de-las-Aves-de-Espana-2021.pdf

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Environment section contact: crisisclimatica@prensaiberica.es

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